Jump to content
  • advertisement_alt
  • advertisement_alt
  • advertisement_alt

Choosing a School


Gecko5
 Share

Recommended Posts

Once you know the type of program you want, what do you look for in schools and how do you look for it? For example, I like to look at program websites and read up on what types of projects the faculty are working on or what types of theses students in the program have written. I also look into the town/city to try to get a sense of the neighborhood I might be living in. How about you guys? 

Is it usually OK to reach out to alumni you find through the program website and ask them about their experiences? 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 2/4/2019 at 10:21 AM, Gecko5 said:

Is it usually OK to reach out to alumni you find through the program website and ask them about their experiences? 

Absolutely DO NOT do this. You can ask current students questions if you visit or if the department connects them with you explicitly, but it would be extremely inappropriate for you to seek out students or alumni to talk to on your own. 

 

I would say the things to look into depend a lot on your goals and what you want out of the program.  Your list is a good start.  I'd add that you will want to look at the alumni placements and the curriculum.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, bayessays said:

Absolutely DO NOT do this. You can ask current students questions if you visit or if the department connects them with you explicitly, but it would be extremely inappropriate for you to seek out students or alumni to talk to on your own. 

This is opposite from the advice I've heard elsewhere. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

10 minutes ago, i_am_freaking_out said:

This is opposite from the advice I've heard elsewhere. 

Someone told you that you should stalk people on the internet and send them unsolicited emails?  Think about how crazy it would be to receive an email from someone you don't know asking whether you enjoyed your undergraduate college or your high school and asking for advice.  Most people would not want this.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 minute ago, bayessays said:

Someone told you that you should stalk people on the internet and send them unsolicited emails?  Think about how crazy it would be to receive an email from someone you don't know asking whether you enjoyed your undergraduate college or your high school and asking for advice.  Most people would not want this.

Assuming I survive grad school I would love for potential students to contact me with questions about past things I've done. In fact some of my other summer program colleagues were reached out to and I was the tiniest bit offended that I wasn't contacted. To each their own I guess

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm sure that you all are nice people who wouldn't mind this. All I'm saying is there are people who are going to wonder why you are emailing them and find it weird. I'm not sure what the idea is behind finding alumni anyways. Departments are changing all the time so current students' opinions are much more relevant. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Alumni who haven't attended the school for a long time might be less useful than more recent alumni. Looking at their LinkedIns to get an idea of their post-graduation trajectories seems like a smart idea, though. This is not the same as "stalking people on the Internet." People create websites and LinkedIns so that other people have a good idea of what people are up to. That's the purpose of those platforms. 

You should contact current students, though, once you are admitted. This is encouraged. I think bayessays' opinion about contacting current students is an uncommon one. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Can we get some more input from more senior members here on this contacting disagreement, @Stat PhD Now Postdocand @cyberwulf? As someone who has dealt with incessant emailing from people who don't know professional boundaries, I find it hard to believe that this is a controversial topic at all.  You may flatter a first-year grad student, but you're probably not going to be well-received by an alum who already receives way too many emails and is wondering why you couldn't be bothered to go through the appropriate channels. Seriously, how hard is it to email the department secretary or the graduate admissions chair to be put in touch with someone? And this is coming from a person who loves giving such advice so much that he is on a gradcafe forum years after attending graduate school! 

Edited by bayessays
Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 hours ago, bayessays said:

Can we get some more input from more senior members here on this contacting disagreement, @Stat PhD Now Postdocand @cyberwulf? As someone who has dealt with incessant emailing from people who don't know professional boundaries, I find it hard to believe that this is a controversial topic at all.  You may flatter a first-year grad student, but you're probably not going to be well-received by an alum who already receives way too many emails and is wondering why you couldn't be bothered to go through the appropriate channels. Seriously, how hard is it to email the department secretary or the graduate admissions chair to be put in touch with someone? And this is coming from a person who loves giving such advice so much that he is on a gradcafe forum years after attending graduate school! 

I would not recommend sending unsolicited emails to PhD alumni or current PhD students directly. I would email the Graduate Program coordinator (who should be one of the professors in the department) and ask them to put you in touch with current PhD students. I have answered questions from prospective students at my PhD program, but it was only after the graduate program coordinator sent me an e-mail and CC'd the potential student in it, and I replied that I would be happy to answer any questions that they had about our program.

As for deciding on a program, it may also be beneficial to visit the department after being admitted (if possible). Then you can talk directly with faculty and current students there. I know some people were dead-set on a certain program, but after they visited a few different ones that they had been admitted to, they changed their mind, because another program felt more "right" for them. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

16 hours ago, bayessays said:

Can we get some more input from more senior members here on this contacting disagreement, @Stat PhD Now Postdocand @cyberwulf? As someone who has dealt with incessant emailing from people who don't know professional boundaries, I find it hard to believe that this is a controversial topic at all.  You may flatter a first-year grad student, but you're probably not going to be well-received by an alum who already receives way too many emails and is wondering why you couldn't be bothered to go through the appropriate channels. Seriously, how hard is it to email the department secretary or the graduate admissions chair to be put in touch with someone? And this is coming from a person who loves giving such advice so much that he is on a gradcafe forum years after attending graduate school! 

Someone quoted you on Twitter and some computer science professors replied. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

31 minutes ago, i_am_freaking_out said:

Someone quoted you on Twitter and some computer science professors replied. 

Lol love it.  A computer science professor's opinion is completely irrelevant on a statistics forum though.  Statistics students are not admitted to labs, so it is much less personal. You're not going to get your admission revoked or anything by doing this, but why risk rubbing your future classmates the wrong way? There is literally a visit day just for this purpose where you can meet tons of students.  The main post was also about contacting ALUMNI which was my bigger objection, because that's completely bonkers. 

The only two people who have actually gone to graduate school for more than a semester are telling you not to do this - if that isn't proof that at least some people will object to this, I don't know what is.  And some will be happy to reply.  I can think of my cohort and know people who would gladly become your pen pal, and many like me who would tell you to email the secretary and then make fun of you for bothering us instead of taking advantage of the big student panel on visit day and the ability to be assigned a student to talk to by the department. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A quick google search yields many articles with advice on reaching out to students and alumnas. OP, if you want to reach out then you should. Sounds like worst case is you'll be made fun and best case you get some important feedback on one of the biggest decisions that you've had to make

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm quite surprised at the people saying not to contact current students and/or alum. Unless the website specifically says not to contact them, it doesn't hurt to try. Just be direct in your email. At one school I applied to, the website straight up encourages applicants to contact graduate students, postdocs, and professors. All of my conversations with people at this school and others have been nothing but informative and courteous.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

34 minutes ago, bayessays said:

A computer science professor's opinion is completely irrelevant on a statistics forum though

Many computer science professors hold joint positions in statistics departments.  Machine learning is  part statistics part CS.  Lets not forget optimization which is utilized in both fields.  I would also hope that there are no circumstances where you make fun of perspective students

Link to comment
Share on other sites

19 minutes ago, Gauss2017 said:

Many computer science professors hold joint positions in statistics departments.  Machine learning is  part statistics part CS.  Lets not forget optimization which is utilized in both fields.  I would also hope that there are no circumstances where you make fun of perspective students

At least we know from that Twitter thread that the UW Statistics department has at least one current student who won't make fun of people trying to make informed decisions about their lives. 

Perhaps this thread gives an indicator of what kind of cohort environment an applicant should look for: one that is welcoming versus one that is riddled with negativity and social barriers. 

Edited by i_am_freaking_out
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Everyone's going to have a different opinion about this. See, e.g. the responses on this Reddit thread: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskAcademia/comments/73fo9w/cold_emailing_phd_students/

I don't think most PhD students would sneer at a cold e-mail from a prospective grad student, but a handful of them may not respond to a cold e-mail. However, if you go through the Graduate Coordinator, they will almost certainly find a current PhD student -- usually several -- who will respond to questions from the prospective student. That is why I would recommend going through that channel. My sentiments are similar to those made by one of the commenters on the Reddit thread I linked to above: "Best way to do it, in my experience, is to email the Department Chair or the faculty you're interested in working with (if you've already contacted them) and ask for grad student contact info to ask questions about the process. Most grad students would be more than happy to help, but it might seem a little more polite to go through an official channel."

Edited by Stat PhD Now Postdoc
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, i_am_freaking_out said:

Perhaps this thread gives an indicator of what kind of cohort environment an applicant should look for: one that is welcoming versus one that is riddled with negativity and social barriers. 

And those other departments will be happy they don't have a bunch of entitled people who can't follow directions.  You're going to be that person who emails me at work asking for career advice instead of going on Google or Glassdoor like everyone else.  None of you have addressed why you would even want to email students like this when the department provides a safe environment to do so.  Grad students are already anxious enough without having to think about what you are going to do with information they give you. Do you think some PhD student is going to dish out everything he hates about the program so that you can copy and paste that email to the department chair and tell them why you're not coming? You're putting them in an impossible position. So why bother sneaking around in the first place?

Did you ever even think how you're  going to send this email and pick one of the 100 students to send it to? How are you going to pick who to email?  Going to send it to the kid with the most American name? Going to send it to the prettiest girl? Just going to send it to everyone? Are you going to send it to the student that just broke up with their girlfriend, or who is considering leaving because they're depressed? 

My advice has been simple: ask the grad admissions chair and department secretary who to contact if you have questions.  I don't understand why you have such a problem with this. Everyone except one person on the above Reddit thread agreed with me.

Anyways, your message was super rude and I'm done being attacked and downvoted for giving good advice by people who are in no position to tell me I'm wrong. Farewell, gradcafe, if you want to find me I'm sure you can look me up in my alumni directory, although I probably won't respond. 

Edited by bayessays
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Definitely it's better to do this once you are admitted. Before you're admitted, most questions about a program can be answered via a Google search. 

I've emailed students in the past without problems. I don't start with a flood of questions, just an introductory email asking if they want to chat. If a current student doesn't want to reply they don't have to. It's an email, not a threat. 

I've asked about flaws of the program (e.g., is there something they wish the program could improve? Is there friction between certain professors?) but I never email their responses to the department chair. Often it's harder to ask these types of questions in a panel-like setting. 

I've picked students to contact based on shared research interests. I ask questions about my POI's advising style. My peers who are underrepresented minorities in the field contact students who are involved in oSTEM, women in STEM, etc to get an idea of the non-academic activities one could get involved with. I've also contacted someone because they were in the same undergrad research group as me (two years before me, so our paths didn't cross then), and I wanted a comparison of our undergrad environment with their grad one. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.